Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



All of My Friends

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Flushed With . . .

Husby and me. Don't look closely . . .
I told him not to laugh.
But he did.
Sigh.
I married him anyway . . .
It was a bright and sunny Tuesday.
But not just any Tuesday.
This was Tuesday, the 27th of April, 1976.
You may wonder why that particular date is etched so clearly in my mind . . .?
You have a right to know.
It was exactly four days before my wedding.
Four frenzied days of scheduled frenetic activity with plans of falling into bed exhausted each night, happy in what had been accomplished.
Four days that I needed to be – healthwise - at my very, very best.
Ahem.
The day started out well.
I climbed out of bed.
I felt a bit more tired than usual, but, with all I had been doing, wasn’t surprised.
I plopped heavily into my seat and stared at my plate as Mom bustled around, setting platters of steaming deliciousness on the table.
Grace was said.
And oblivious-ness set in as people dove for whatever was nearest.
Soon we were all chewing happily.
Mom passed someone a bowl of potatoes and looked at me. “So what have you got planned . . .?” she stopped, mid-sentence, and stared at me. “Diane? Are you all right?”
I looked at her.
She got up and moved around the table to me. “You look . . . flushed.”
I shrugged.
She placed a cool hand on my forehead. “You feel a bit warm.”
“I’m tired, but I feel all right,” I said, feeling a slight feathering of alarm.
She tipped my head back and looked at my throat.
“Oh, my word!” she said. “Mark, look at this!”
“What?” I said. “What’s wrong?”
Dad leaned over the table and peered at my neck. “Oh, my!” he said.
Okay, I was thoroughly alarmed by this point. “What?” I said. Did I grow an extra appendage in the night? Did I suddenly get a whisker? Or worse . . . a zit???!!!
Mom sat back on her chair and sighed.
Sighed.
“Diane, I’m pretty sure you have the measles.”
Whaaa . . .? I jumped up and ran to the closest mirror.
Sure enough, my neck and the lower half of my face were a mottled mass of tiny, red pinpricks. So many of them that, at first, they resembled a rosy flush on my skin. Only on closer inspection did they morph into what they actually were.
Measles.
I. Had. The. Measles.
Four days before I was going to be married.
My life was over.
Mom bundled me up and hauled me into the doctor’s office. Where our local medical professional confirmed our suspicions.
German measles.
I dragged myself home. How could this be happening to me? Weren’t the measles a childhood disease?
And wasn’t childhood  . . . sort of . . . behind me?
I placed a call to my Husby-To-Be at his work.
Our conversation went something like this:
“Hi, Honey! How’s work?” *soft sob*
“Great! How are you doing?”
“Well . . . I have something to tell you . . .”
Slightly alarmed Husby-To-Be voice. “What is it? What’s the matter?!”
“Well . . . promise you won’t tell anyone. And that you won’t laugh . . .”
“Umm . . . okay . . .”
“I . . . have the  . . . German measles.”
A short pause, while he took in my news. Then, “Bwahahahahahaha!” Sound of phone being dropped. And Husby-To-Be moving through the office, telling every one of his co-workers.
Okay, which part of ‘don’t tell anyone’ and ‘don’t laugh’ did he not get?
We did get married.
I was totally fine. Except that in some of our photos, particularly the close-ups, you can see the barest hint of a red flush.
People simply dismiss it as evidence of excitement.
Now you know.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Little Pray-ers

Have you ever watched the kids at church?
Or heard their daily prayers?
Well, I’ve been doing some research,
These things are true, I swear . . .
To the small girl wiggling in the pew,
“We must quiet reverence, keep!
Do you know why?” She said, “I do!
‘Cause people are asleep!”

With the Lord’s Prayer, the boy declaimed,
“Our Father, who does art in heaven.”
Then added, “Harold is His name."
And then, “Amen!” was given.
Another praying, as he had been taught,
Hoped he’d be a ‘lamb’.
“But,” he said, “It matters not,
It’s fun the way I am!”

The elder lad, who, without shame,
Watched baby brother blessed.
Spoke with the priest and then became
Unaccountably distressed,
The Service done, to Dad, Jerome,
Unquestionably blue,
Said, “Priest wants me in a Christian home,
But I want to stay with you!”

Two boys were fighting over food,
Who’d be the first one served.
Mom frowned because it wasn’t good,
“You must be like the Lord!
‘You go first!’ He’d always say.
And first, His brother’d be.”
One boy looked at his brother then,
“You be the Lord!” says he.

The small boy grabbed his father’s hand,
And led him to the beach.
A dead bird lay there in the sand,
Dad frowned. T’was time to teach.
“What happened?” his young boy inquired.
“He went to Heaven, son.”
The boy frowned down at the body, mired,
“S’thrown back when God was done?”

A small girl asked to bless the food,
For guests her mom invited.
She said, “I can’t! My prayers aren’t good!”
She was a bit excited.
“Just say what you’ve heard Mama say.”
She nodded. That was fine.
"Lord,” she said, “Just why on earth
Did I ask these folks to dine?!”

We talk of Faith, we talk of Hope.
We talk of Charity.
We follow prophet, priest or pope,
Find comfort on our knees.
Though we’re sincere in thought and word,
With pomp and pageantry,
There’s no one closer to the Lord,
Then the children that you see.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pig-Riding

Daddy and me.
Do any of the rest of you see the irony here?
Okay I wasn’t supposed to do it.
And I knew I wasn’t supposed to do it.
But that just made it all the more fun.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On the Stringam ranch, behind the chicken *shudder*coop was the pigpen.
It was rather off the beaten track, tucked in as it was.
A destination in itself.
A perfect location for hijinks when the horses were out and everything else possible had been explored/done.
And boredom was threatening to set in.
Or one was feeling petulant and/or adventurous.
One could climb the fence. Slide into the shadow of the shelter. Perch there on an upended bucket.
And pick out a heretofore unidentified victim co-conspirator.
I should point out here that pigs are very sociable and curious creatures.
When something – or someone – is introduced into their world, they immediately converge to give it a sniff.
And a taste.
And they love to be scratched.
Back to my story . . .
All I had to do was sit there until all of the pigs swarmed me.
Scratch a couple.
And (this is the forbidden part) climb aboard one.
The pig would snort and scamper (yes, scamper) across the pen to the far side.
And, if one were lucky enough to still be aboard, back again.
Okay, yes, the fun was decidedly ephemeral (Ooh! Good word!).
One’s raging father could – and often did – appear at any time.
How did he do that?
But there he would be, with hands on hips and the heated glare that only an angry father can summon, as his newly-repentant child silently slid off the pig and exited the pigpen.
Our subsequent conversations usually went something like this:
Dad: Diane! I’ve told you and told you not to ride the pigs! You could injure them. And they get all excited and don’t gain weight.
Me: Look Dad! I fell in the poop!
Yeah. Let’s just cross future rocket scientist off that future occupations list.

Assigned six words that evoked such memories.
How does she do it?
This week's words: Petulantragingpigpenunidentifiedbucketephemeral

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Supermom!

This many kids. One adult.
My good friend was in hospital for a couple of days for some minor surgery.
Her four kids (three girls and one boy) were staying with us.
And our (then) four kids. (Three boys and one girl)
The kids were perfectly matched.
Boy-girl, boy-girl, boy-girl and boy-girl.
And got along very well.
My house was quieter with eight (ranging in ages from 1 to 7) kids in it, than it was with just my own four.
They were all playing happily.
Then I suddenly realized that I needed to go to the store.
Sigh.
The status quo was about to change.
I buckled in what amounted to essentially four sets of twins and started off.
All went well.
We arrived and I immediately hunted up a cart.
No way I was going to try to herd this bunch without some modern conveniences.
The two babies were buckled into the baby compartment on the cart.
The two toddlers went into the basket.
The two kindergarteners hung onto the outside.
And the two seven year olds were allowed free range.
But with strict instructions to stay close.
We were off!
My errands were run in record time.
Surprisingly.
And, quite suddenly, it was snack time.
I looked into my wallet.
I should point out, here, that my husband had just graduated from post secondary and was working in his first real job.
We were poor.
Well, rich in children.
But poor in things that can actually . . . purchase things.
Moving on.
My wallet held the grand total of two dollars.
Which in itself was a miracle.
I was standing in the middle of the food court, contemplating my options.
They were . . . limited.
Finally, I approached a kiosk called, The Loaf, which specialized in sandwiches made from thick slices of 'freshly-baked-on-the-premises' bread.
"What would you charge for just a slice of fresh bread and butter?" I asked the girl behind the counter.
She scrunched up her face in thought.
Really.
Scrunched.
Then she said, "Twenty-five cents."
The magic words.
I ordered eight slices of fresh bread and butter and handed her my two dollars.
Then I passed out slices of thick, warm, fresh bread to each of my little hoard.
Who happily chowed down.
A cowboy term for tucking in.
Which is another cowboy term for . . . oh, never mind.
You get the picture.
They ate.
And enjoyed.
A couple walked past while my kids were busy . . . umm . . . enjoying.
"What a good idea for a snack!" the woman exclaimed. "I think you are the best mother I have ever seen!"
I smiled, rather self-consciously.
'Best mother' is obviously code for 'too-broke-to-buy-anything-else'.
We finished our snack and headed back to the Sears store for one last item.
My friend's eldest daughter, who had been following closely asked if she could dart over and peek at the girl's blouses.
I told her that it was fine. I would just walk slowly so she could catch up.
And continued down the aisle.
I passed one of the entrances to the store.
Two women had just come in.
They, a mother and her mother, were struggling to control a small boy of about two.
Who was red-faced and screaming.
Actually, now that I think of it, all of them were red-faced and . . .
Ahem.
Back to my story.
The grandmother looked up and noticed me walk past with my cart full to overflowing with children and said," Here the two of us can't control one child and that woman," she pointed, "has . . . five, six, seven!"
Just then, my friend's oldest daughter rejoined our group.
I smiled at the women and said, "Eight."
And walked on.
Okay, I know it wasn't strictly truthful.
But it was so much fun to say it!!!
And, just for a moment, I felt like one of those uber-organized, amazing women one sees who are always neat, tidy and . . . well . . . together.
Controlling hoards of children and still managing to look serene.
Yep. Just call me SUPERMOM.
But only for the moment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Grandpa Names

We have a tradition in our family.
I know what you’re going to say . . .
Another tradition?!
Hear me out . . .
When we were expecting our babies, and fighting arguing considering possible names, my ever-helpful Husby gave me a list from which to choose.
My Husby’s an historian. Did I mention that?
It’s significant.
Moving on . . .
The list was seven pages long.
And included such classics as: Trophimus. Trogillium. Vafthrusdinal. Gundohar and Gundobad (If we should ever be blessed with twins.)
I see your face.
Mine sported a similar expression.
And I named our babies.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering about the aforementioned tradition.
That comes here . . .
Because I was rude ignorant smart enough to ignore his helpful advice, my uber-determined Husby started in on the next generation.
With one significant change.
Our children weren’t given a choice.
Nope. They were given a name.
One name per grandchild.
Oh, they chose their own names, too. The names that would appear on birth certificates and numerous and sundry other legal places throughout the child’s life.
But each of them have a Grandpa Name (hereinafter known as GN) as well.
Unofficial, but just as important.
Let me enlighten you. These are the names as they now stand:
Megan Sarah. GN: Cruchenperk
Kyra Danielle. GN: Ataxerxes
Odin Erik. GN: Dashley
Thorin James. GN: Ragnowinthe
Erini Tiana. GN: Salmanezer
Bronwyn Bell. GN: Pintiquinestra
Jarom Elliott. GN: Abindaraz
Linnea Viktoria. GN: Adrevalde
Hazel Jane. GN: Bardowick
Willow Victoria. GN: Cantabrie
Leah Brooke Rachelle. GN: Ettelwulf
Aksel Grant. GN: Burthred
With each one, there’s been the usual angst. And the ‘Why don’t they use my good names?’ question.
Maybe you can answer that.
Why am I telling you all of this? Number thirteen is on his way.
I’ll keep you posted . . .

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mom Song

Mom's favourite picture.
There is a line from a Joe Diffie (yes, I’m a country music fan) song that goes:
Home was a back porch swing where I would sit, 
And mom would sing Amazing Grace, while she hung out the clothes.
That line reminds me of my own Mom.
Mom was always singing. The first thing she did when she entered the kitchen in the morning was switch on the radio.
And hum along with the current favourites while she stirred up breakfast.
Later, radio off; I can picture her with her hands in hot, soapy water, belting out ‘Darling Clementine’.
Or hoeing in the garden to ‘Till We Meet Again’.
It’s amazing how ‘Amazing Grace’ or any number of other songs go along with milking the cows. The rhythm just works.
Folding clothes? That will always remind me of ‘You Are My Sunshine’. When she could convince one of us to join her, sung in two-part harmony.
‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’ was waltzed with the broom across the kitchen floor.
And what would pea-shelling and bean-snapping be without ‘My Easter Bonnet’?
And early morning without ‘Good Morning, Mary Sunshine’?
Or bedtime without ‘Irish Lullaby’?
Riding out to the cows inevitably brought a rendition of ‘The Old Grey Mare’.
And evenings with the family - at least one chorus of ‘Whispering Hope’, again in harmony.
There are dozens more. I can’t picture Mom without a song in her heart and on her lips.
And her kids all do it, too.
Sing, I mean. While working.
More than once, I got smacked on the back of the head for bursting into song at inappropriate times during school.
Oops.
It’s been too many years since I heard my Mom sing.
But in my memory, she’s singing still.
The last lines from that same Diffie song are totally appropriate for me: My footsteps carry me away. But in my mind, I’m always going home.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Kids


The original eight...
I have six kids. Yes, that’s a lot,
But a love for kids is what I’ve got,
I’ve welcomed each with open heart,
‘Cause every one’s a work of art!

There’s Mark, the eldest by a hair,
My blondie boy with brown-eyed stare,
With lively mind and crooked grin,
Hatching plots nefarious and grim.

My streamlined Erik’s next in line,
My soldier/cop with steely spine,
Who, daily, faces down the foe,
Then hurries home to bake or sew.

My Duff is third, my little prince,
Of his love, I am convinced,
E’en though he brought (I did not grouse),
A boa constrictor in my house.

Fourth child, first girl was Caitlin, dear.
My dreamer when she first appeared,
She lives to read; by fiction, stirred.
Is ‘lackadaisical’ her word?

Tiana’s next, our busy girl,
She gives hurricanes a whirl,
Just shake her up and let her fizz.
Like seltzer in a bottle  . . . is.

Then Tristan, last of all my joys,
My other classic brown-eyed boy.
Young AGM of his hotel,
An acting job that he does well.

There you have it, that’s the group,
Others have pointed at my troop.
“You’ve too many!” ‘S the concern,
I wonder which ones I’d return . . .?

Each week, Delores of  Under the Porch Light gives her followers a challenge: 
Use these words! Or else! Well, she couches it in the form of a request . . .
This week's words?
Nefariousboastreamlinedlackadaisicalseltzerclassic
What else could I do but describe my kids?

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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